Mount Hood PCT 50 Mile - Clackamas Ranger Station, Oregon

Elevation Gain: 5630'
July 12, 2014 - After six nights of bivouacing in Oregon's deep, dark forests of cedar and
western hemlock I was rested and feeling very much caught up on my sleep.  I was
resolved to give this speedy fifty my best effort and make amends for having to pull
up short in a string of recent challenging events that served only to aggrevate my
degenerating Achilles.  The price of rest is no training, however.  It is always a juggling
act.  With confidence that I could count on muscle memory to see me through, I toed
the line from the old historic Clackamas Ranger Station near Timothy Lake with plans
to run all day on the Pacific Crest Trail in hopes of redemption.

The 0630 start seemed late.  The sun was well nigh in the sky already - t-shirt weather.
With the speedy nature of this course, there would be plenty of time for everyone to
finish before dark.  I took off with the pack down the connecting Miller Trail to the PCT.
Clouds of dust rose with the clomp of so many feet.  There was nothing to do but eat it
and keep going.  The start wound around the north shore of Timothy Lake before
heading north for the first 19.2-mile out-and-back traverse to the north.  The PCT is a
runner's dream, a virtual highway compared to most trail runs.  It was easy to move
without much interference from roots and rocks, though there were plenty of those as
we moved to single file up and down the early easy grades.  



I purposefully stopped after two miles to eat a gel and enjoy a look at the lake.  I was
not in a hurry.  Things were moving well and I didn't want to feel rushed in queue with
the masses.  Continuing with more space, the miles clicked off quickly.  I was really
surprised to roll into the first aid station at Little Crater Lake at 6 miles in an even hour,
comfortably covering the initial distance at a ten-minute pace, about what I would run
on the roads at a good tempo.  Continuing at this comfortable tempo I hit the next aid
station at 9.2 miles in 90 minutes, then reached the turn-around at Frog Lake at 14.2
miles in 150 minutes - a very even tempo despite some good climbing in the third
section where we were treated to some great views of Mount Hood in the sunshine.



Despite moving at mostly a ten-minute pace, what shocked me the most was that I was
bringing up the rear.  All these folks were negotiating this terrain at between 6 and 10
minutes per mile - even the sluggos were moving faster than me.  By the time I reached
ten miles the lead runners were moving past me in their 19th mile.  Wow.  Am I really
that slow?  I don't think being a has-been has ever seemed so apparent.  So this is 
what it has come to, I thought.


I was actually feeling good, despite a few minor sensations where I usually hurt.  I kept
my pace on the run back to 19.2 miles where my time was still a reasonable 205 minutes,
certainly nothing to complain about.  I was clicking along aiming for a ten-hour finish
and not feeling bad.  Maybe the rest had done me good.

I noticed my pace dropping off a bit over the subsequent 3.2 miles back to Little Crater
Lake, much to be expected with the wave of heat that was hitting us as we approached 
mid-day.  An aid station volunteer poured a generous amount of water over my head and 
shirt to stay cool, I ate generously, and the entire time I was there I was fanned with two
paper plates by a comedic volunteer named Yaseem.  As he walked around me, keeping
me cool, I had to complement the guy somehow so I told him he was "Oscillating", which
was taken to mean "awesome".  So we all had a good laugh as Oscillating Yaseem 
became my number one "fan"..... you had to be there..... it was hilarious, and a great
distraction from the effort.

Heading out I still felt great, eating a Gu gel every two miles.  Lots of good energy and
my legs were still fairly fresh, despite the  quicker tempo (for me).  Somewhere in the
next six miles back to the start/finish area both Achilles unravelled.  I stumbled quite a
few times on roots, despite not falling.  Perhaps in efforts to regain control my Achilles
were hammered.  I can't say, but my heals were becoming painful to the point of 
wincing with some steps.  I would have made it back to mile 28.4 in five hours except
I was forced to walk in the last three-quarters of a mile to protect my heals.  My great
attitude and confidence in perhaps going the distance on this one was shot to hell in the
matter of just a couple of miles.

I stopped, sat down, and didn't have to think about it long.  I hobbled off the course in
pain, and more than thirty hours after I stopped I still feel more pain than I have in a 
long time.  I'm noticeably limping and wondering if I can ever do this again.  I have
had this kind of Achilles stress before.  There is nothing you can do but take time off -
months - and let it heal.  The alternative is not good.  With one ruptured Achilles to
show for my past indiscretion, I have a constant reminder of what is at stake.  Perhaps
I have stayed at the party a little too long, and it is time to move on.



                                                     *     *     *

As a side note, I want to record a highlight of this adventure, at least for my own
benefit.  The two evenings prior to the race I found a nice site to bivouac well back in
the National Forest away from all civilization.  It was secluded and I had the entire world
to myself.  After midnight on the night before the race, I was already wide awake from
my slumbers when I heard two Sasquatches whooping back and forth to each other.  One
was perhaps a quarter mile away and the other at a distance.  There were nine whoops,
each one inflective and each one different, one lasting perhaps four to five seconds; the
first seven occurred within perhaps two minutes; then another brief whoop twenty minutes
later and a last one perhaps another half hour later.  I was intrigued, and spellbound.  I
had just witnessed two primates communicating some message across a distance to one
another.  It was clear to me that it was a primate vocalization, but not human.  It seemed
to be some sort of announcement, with response and clarification.  One can only guess
what they were saying to one another.

You might think it would have been hard to fall back asleep, for one reason or another.
Once all became quiet I had no difficulty returning to the Sandman.  When I arose the
next morning and crept out of my sleeping bag to squat in the woods in the dark, I could
only smile when thinking about what might be out there beyond my vision.  I was not
afraid, not in the least.  The night after the event I went back to the same place and
moved a quarter mile closer to where the closest vocalization came from to see if I could
witness another episode.  But nothing happened.  The seven nights I slept in the deep
dark cedar and western hemlock forests of Oregon were quiet to the extreme, with not
a night bird to be heard; only an occasional lonely bull frog.  Strange, but this experience
was worth the trip alone.  I have yet to have a face-to-face with one of the big guys or
even see a track, but I look forward to both with great anticipation.